A couple of years ago I spent a lot of time thinking about how to become less fearful and more serene. I stopped mentioning it not because I have been successful but because it seems like such a life long project that to write continually about it would become tedious for the reader. But the idea is ever present in my mind and has caused me to think critically about how I am feeling at any given moment.
My great conclusion is that we humans operate from a place of fear more often than we are even aware of. I really think that so much of our emotion and reaction is fear-based and that much of the time we aren't even aware of the fearfulness that lies underneath. I find dealing with a root cause to be so much more effective than trying to change the surface problem.
What has really brought this to mind this past week has been my ongoing attachment with H. I have mentioned before how it does not come easily or naturally, and possibly the most frustrating part of it is that she is a loving and sweet girl and it would seem that there is no cause for my attachment problems. It is frustrating to have no definite cause on top of everything else. And I talk with a lot of adoptive parents, this is not unusual, but seems to be fairly common. (So if you are reading this and I have discussed these things with you, rest assured that I have had nearly the exact same conversation with others as well.) But as I think about what is going on, I have come to a conclusion, my difficulty (and here I'm speaking for myself, though it may be useful for others) really has fear at the root of it.
What started me down this path was to start to analyse the different ways I think about each of my children. Some of those children I became immediately attached to when they were born, others the attachment grew over time, but for all of them I see them through the lens of love and am able to overlook their sometimes odd and potentially annoying quirks. Because I love them, those quirks, which I realized could be truly annoying to an outsider, are just those little things that make each child unique and that I find just a little bit charming. I am not afraid of those quirks because most of them are because they are young and I know that they will not grow up and still act like a very young child. I can overlook the quirks because I am not afraid of them.
And then I thought about H. She, too, has a lot of quirks. Many of them are due to learning a new language and changing cultures and learning to live in a family. Many others of them are due to being developmentally behind where most 10 year olds are. There are many quirks. And my great revelation was that, whether I acknowledged it or not, I was actually afraid of all the quirks that she exhibits. Afraid that she would have them all her life. Afraid that she would never really adjust to her new environment. Afraid that life was never going to change. Afraid. Afraid. Afraid.
When you are reacting from fear, it does some odd things. Because the behavior you are seeing is causing you fear, the behavior is what you fixate on. It becomes a greater problem than it really is. What we are afraid of, we fixate on. We either spend all of our time thinking about it or spend all of our time avoiding it. Either way, it takes all of our energy. When you are spending all of your energy dealing with fear about a child, it is very difficult to focus on the actual child.
To pinpoint what was actually going on was actually a relief. I have always been disturbed by why I felt as I did without having a real reason behind it. Being able to name my fears has helped me to set them aside. And I have to say that the past week has been incredibly pleasant, but yet nothing about H. has changed. I have, though. I realize that I was reacting to behavior way above what was called for because I wasn't just seeing the behavior, but seeing the behavior in terms of forever. Instead of seeing an endearing quirk that would probably pass, I was seeing something set and permanent. Fear was truly making mountains out of mole hills. (It often does.) I know we still have a ways to go, but this has been a big change for me and one that I can already feel is making a huge difference in my emotional feelings for my child.
Fear is something that has always been a constant issue for me, and I know it won't be going away anytime soon. But this is why everyone needs to read the Winnie-the-Pooh books. It was Winnie-the-Pooh who helped me take my first step toward managing it. Piglet is a very timid little character and is constantly worrying about what might happen. He expresses a particular worry to Pooh, who then asks very matter-of-factly, "But what if it doesn't?"
As parents we often spend an awful lot of time worrying and being fearful about so many things that could possibly happen or not happen to our children. I think we all need to take a page from Winnie-the-Pooh and ask ourselves, "But what if it doesn't?" Do we want to spent far too long being fearful about what will never happen or do we want to enjoy our children right now?
"Do no fear for I am with you, do not be afraid for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10